Stickman's guide to Bangkok
Racism Against Blacks in Thailand
By A Proud Black
I am a reader of your column and a frequent visitor to Thailand since 1998. On my last trip (May 03) I noticed an interesting trend in the way people of color are treated. I actually had a few bad experiences where I was denied access to certain establishments in the Nana Entertainment complex, namely the Hollywood bar on the third floor as well as the beer bar next to the entrance in Nana (which ironically is owned by an American from what I hear). When I asked why, I was told it was a "members only" club which was BS as I saw white males entering the very establishments I was denied access. In one case I was told I could not enter but after showing my American passport I was told that I could, but I was so pissed by then that went to another bar to spend my money. Note that I have also heard similar stories from friends (professional African American males) to whom I recommend a visit to Thailand something I do not think I will do again. TAT is missing a huge demographic here but then again they probably don't even care as the number of "white male" tourists are increasing anyways as per your articles.
I have heard from different people including some bargirls that the reason why African Americans are having this problem in Thailand is due to the fact that the "Africans" have given us a bad reputation in the country and as such they instituted these policies.
At first I was furious, actually steaming with rage so much that I started drafting letters to TAT and the US Embassy. Then I thought about it and decided not to as I have seen blatant racism in a number of establishments in Thailand against other races. I guess it doesn't bother you unless you are directly affected by it.
Now, don't get me wrong this will not deter me from visiting Thailand as I love the country period, and not so much for the women but the culture, food and weather primarily. I will however make my visits shorter and spend less money than I usually do and go some place else for the rest of my vacation.
The problem is that where can a well heeled African American go for fun in BKK. We are not really accepted on Soi 1 as we are not "Africans". We can certainly go to the Grace Hotel but we are not Arabs, and honestly given the current "anti-American" climate in much of the Arab world we are not really welcome there either, so what's a poor fella to do.
I have tried going to other destinations such as Rio, but it is just not the same, even though we are more accepted there given that a significant portion of the Brazilian population is Black.
I understand what's going on and even though it really hurts that you are not only discriminated against in your own country but to have it happen to you in a country such as Thailand really breaks my heart. I always though one of the main practices of Buddhism was tolerance, well so much for that.
Imagine an uneducated, piss poor country farm girl, thinking she is better than you a post-graduate educated, well travelled above average wealthy American, it does wonders to your psyche. I was raised thinking that everyone is equal regardless of race, color, creed and sexual orientation (that's the American way right) but I have grown to realize something different, and as much as it pisses me off to see blatant racism and bigotry practised, I now take it with a grain of salt and I let my greenbacks do the talking. Sad but that's just the way it is.
I have now taken the attitude that for every bar or bargirl who rejects me because of my race, there are a thousand others that will allow me access to their establishments and will go with me. It is really funny as the girls that do go with me, after they get to know me they all say I have "jai-dee" as I treat them well (sometimes to well :-) ) and with respect as I would any Western woman I have dated.
The bottom line is my money is just as green as the "white" farang and I can do whatever I want with it, and the more Thai society realizes that, then just like in America you may hate me because of my color, but you need my money in exchange for your goods and services. That's commerce, and there is no race in the word commerce.
I will forever love the Kingdom and I will continue to visit irrespective as the good food, weather etc certainly outweighs the bad. I am not asking for anything special here, just treat me that same, is that too much to ask?
It's a real shame to hear that you have been treated badly at some places. Plenty of other black guys have written articles about this so why not drop them an email as they might have a few ideas on how to get the most out of your visits. Good luck. The Londoner was a black guy from the UK and he seemed to have a great time.
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